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Sheldon Jackson Museum February 2022 Artifact of the Month is an Alutiiq Twined Grass Basket

by LAM Webmaster on 2022-02-17T08:25:00-09:00 in Artifact of the Month, Museums, Sheldon Jackson Museum | 0 Comments

For Immediate Release
February 17, 2022

pale woven lidded grass basketThe Sheldon Jackson Museum February Artifact of the Month is an Alutiiq twined grass basket (SJ-II-CC-9). The basket was likely made on Kodiak Island and was purchased from an art and antiquities dealer by the Friends of Sheldon Jackson Museum for the permanent collection.

The grass basket has a lid featuring a small raised knob and design elements in purple and coral yarn and red and green ribbon. The ribbon is of the Christmas wrapping variety, indicating the basket likely dates to the twentieth century. The rim is done in the fashion of Paul's border 4 with a right/left termination. The termination of the body is sewn down with white commercial thread; the cover has grass elements that are braided for approximately one inch. The inside of the basket is roughly finished, and the base is done in plain solid twining.

According to weaver and gut skin sewer June (Simeonoff) Pardue (Alutiiq/Sugpiaq), the basket was likely made by Feodosia Inga (Alutiiq). Pardue saw the basket while visiting the museum in 1996 and easily recognized Inga’s hand. Peter Corey, who was museum curator at the time, agreed with her attribution, noting similarities in other examples of Inga’s work at the Kodiak Historical Society.

Feodosia Inga (Kahutak) was a master weaver, born in 1895 in Old Harbor, Alaska. She was the daughter of Maxim Kahutak and Irina Kahutak, wife of Aleksandr Inga, and mother of Efrem Inga, Simeon Inga, Annie Petroff (Inga), Alec Inga, George Inga, Sr., and five others. She is known for carrying on the tradition of the "Kodiak-style Aleut” basket, which tended to have a bit larger weave and was typically more heavily decorated. She wove even after her eyesight began to fail. Inga passed away in 1972. 

Pardue has deep personal and familial ties to many Kodiak weavers, including Inga, so it is no surprise that she recognized her work at the Sheldon Jackson Museum. While she was growing up in Old Harbor, Pardue’s mother wove with Inga. As a child, Pardue would help her mother collect grasses for weaving and accompany her to weaver gatherings. At the womens’ circles, she’d sit on the floor, pick up grass pieces, and try her own hand at weaving. The impact was long-lasting. As an adult, Pardue went on to teach grass basket weaving and other traditional arts including beading, regalia making, gut skin and fish skin sewing. She has delivered these classes and given talks internationally and across Alaska, including at the Sheldon Jackson Museum and her basketry may be found in several museum collections. She was awarded the Rasmuson Foundation’s prestigious Individual Artist Award in 2021 and has participated in the Alaska Native Artist Residency Program at the Sheldon Jackson Museum several times. She continues to carry on the legacy of women weavers like Inga. In 1999, she shared this with museum staff: “I love teaching cultural values, particularly respect for the elders. It’s so important to give credit to those who taught you the values of your culture, and to pass those values on to the next generation.”

Among the Alutiiq, grass has always been an invaluable natural resource. Traditionally, it is used to make more than just baskets and containers – it was also used to line boots, insulate homes, and cover floors. Grass for these purposes may be collected in the fall post-natural air curing or in the summer. The method of curing and the location of the harvest determines color and texture. Alutiiq weavers traditionally split grass blades and used the inner stalk. Thicker grass pieces were used for spokes and thinner pieces for weavers. Although the art form of grass weaving was practiced less after Russian colonizers arrived to Kodiak, weaving continued thanks to the likes of Inga and Pardue’s mother. Beginning in the 1950s, grass weaving enjoyed a renewal among the Alutiit, and it continues to this day. 

The Sheldon Jackson Museum February Artifact of the Month will be exhibited until February 28. The museum has many baskets in its collection but only three Alutiiq baskets. These may be seen during museum hours,Tuesday-Saturday,10 am-4 pm. General admission is $7, $6 for seniors, and free for those 18 and under or members of either the Friends of the Sheldon Jackson Museum or Friends of the Alaska State Museum.

Media Contact:

Patience Frederiksen
Director, Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums

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